We all have our own Southport Must-do List

Anyone who’s been to a Ceroc Southport Weekender will know that there’s so much on offer, and you soon learn you can’t do it all.  So when the programme is published on line many people start to make a to-do list.  Even this has to get slimmed down, and it’s not long before you have a shorter Must-do List.

I was tempted to give you mine, but as we approach yet another Southport dance fest, I thought I’d ask around to see what my dance friends would pick out as their not-to-miss parts of this wonderful weekender to add to my own.

Your 10 Must-do List

As a result of these conversations I’ve put together a Top Ten Must-do List, that I hope will start to build the anticipation of yet another great weekend of dancing and socialising.  I hope it will also give any first timers a flavour of what they can expect, and a guide to some of the best bits.

While discussing people’s own Must-do List I was also given lots of tips about things to pack.  These are mainly items to make your chalet more comfortable and your weekend more enjoyable.  I’ve included this list at the end of the article.

No 1: The Late night Thunderball Room DJ Sets

If you like your dance music full on, with the bass turned up to the max, then the main Thunderball Room, after ten o’clock is the place to be.  There must be over five hundred people in this room at its peak, and most of them are on the floor dancing their socks off.  It’s not surprising that the atmosphere out on the floor is at times quite electrifying.

It’s easy to forget that the exhilarating vibe is created by a series of DJs who take it in turn to spin some of the best dance music ever produced.  Each has an hour long slot, and they all make sure they play their very best floor fillers.  No wonder then that at times it seems like the floor is on fire.

We all have our favourites.  My dance friend Ian will always catch one of Hayley Epps sets, and I never want to miss out on at least one of Tony Ricardi’s shifts behind the decks.

I hope Tony will understand I won’t stay up for his Friday night gig, as he doesn’t take to the stage until 3:30, but I’ll be there on Sunday night at 11:30 for what I’m sure will be one of the DJ highlights of the night.

Also great to see Steve Thomas and John Baker getting Thunderball Room DJing sets.  I first danced to one of Steve’s playlist at a Ceroc Surrey class night at Surbiton.  I thought then that he was deserving of a Thunderball Room set, so I’ll be on the floor at midnight on Saturday night, for what I’m sure will be some top tunes.

I’ve also had the pleasure of dancing to John Baker’s music three times during the Spring, and every time it’s been top drawer.  At his Strictly Ceroc’s Coventry venue he rocked the floor with the help of some Ceroc classics, while at Bristol’s Switch he played a more contemporary thumping set.  I’m sure John will mix up the old and the new in to a spot on Thunderball Room playlist.

DJ Hayley Epps gets ready to take over from Tim Sant in a packed Thunderball Room

No 2: Swinger’s Hour

Swingers Hour, with its sixty minutes of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Swing Music, is on a lot of people’s Must-do list.  One of the main reasons that this Saturday and Sunday mid-day hour is so popular, is because it gives the ladies an opportunity to dress up in gorgeous swirly ’50s style dresses.  Steve from Melton Mowbray is a great fan and here’s his take on it:

I love the music, particularly the Rock ‘n’ Roll, and quite honestly an hour is just not long enough.  Five hours would suit me just fine.

Not sure I could do five hours Steve, the one hour just about finishes me off.  I love the mix of ’40s Swing and ’50s Rock ‘n’ Roll music, as much as Steve, but it can be a little too fast for Ceroc at times, which is a great way to lead on to the fabulous lesson that Lyndsey Bennett puts on before hand.

Get Ready for Swinger’s Hour

The aptly named ‘Get ready for Swinger’s Hour class (see link below) is one of the most popular and most fun classes of the whole weekend, and takes place in the main Thunderball Room at midday.  In this class Lyndsey, usually aided by demo Ben, teaches some moves that work for the faster paced Swing and Rock ‘n’ Roll music.  Essentially what Lyndsey has done is to take the ‘Step Back’ out of some of the Ceroc moves to make them more easily fit the tempo of the music.

Here’s a video my friend Tel Jenkin’s made in September last year, which shows Lyndsey and Ben teaching on the stage in the main Thunderball Room, and the great fun everyone had out on the dance floor.  You can also spot lots of people in their ’40s and ’50s themed clothes.

No 3: A Walk on the Beach

Fred Pontin chose the site of his Southport Holiday Camp well, building it adjacent to the beautiful Ainsdale Beach.  This unspoilt sandy beach is just a two minute walk from the camp entrance, and offers an enjoyable and relaxing way to take a break from the dancing.

In September last year the weather on the Saturday was quite summer like, and Rachel from Brinsley voted it one of her highlights.  Even in the rain soaked February Weekender, people braved the elements and took a break from the dancing to have a bracing yet refreshing walk along the beach.

Let’s hope the weather this time round is as nice as it was when Rachel took this photo of her footsteps in the sand last September.

No 4: Caine and Danni’s Smooth Slotted Class

One of the great attractions of Southport is the number and variety of classes you can attend.  At first sight, the choice can seem overwhelming,  and its easy to end up doing too many, so it’s worth spending a little time going through the programme before hand.  Fortunately the programme is now available on line (see link below) so you can pick out your must-do lessons.

I’ve already mentioned one of my Must-do lessons – Lyndsey Bennett’s  Get ready for Swingers Hour – but my regular dance partner Jo has picked out Caine and Danni’s Switches class, described as Smooth Slotted Switch Techniques, as a Must-Do.

Here’s Jo talking about her dance journey:

It took a while, but once I felt confident with the standard Ceroc moves, I wanted to learn a smoother style of dancing.

Last year myself and Paul attended Caine and Danni’s Simply Slotted class (see link below).  This gave us the confidence to start dancing in a smoother slotted style.  We then went to some SILC classes and we’ve made some good progress together.

We are hoping that doing another one of Caine and Danni’s lessons will take us up another step on our journey to be better smooth dancers.

I think most of us want to improve our dancing, and so picking out a couple of lessons, that will advance our dancing, is one of the Must-dos for the weekend.

There is no doubt that Caine and Danni’s class will help all the people that go along.  I suspect the moves might be a bit challenging, but it would be a shame to come away on Monday without having added something to your dance repertoire.

No 5: Immerse yourself in this wonderful community

There is no doubt that one of the joys of Southport is that you can spend a whole weekend with hundreds of like minded people.  People who love dancing, but who also have a sense of fun, and have decided that they are not going to spend their leisure time sat in front of their computers and TV.

For three days all our worldly worries are pushed in to the background, and we are the best version of ourselves.  This goes some way to explaining why Southport is so friendly, and why everyone comes away having made more new friends.  For many people their must-do is to immerse themselves in to this wonderful community, go with the flow, and just enjoy every last minute of it.

These are the people who dance as much as they can, and with as many people as they can.  They will go to the chalet parties and stay up late at the after parties.  Some will take it in their stride and some will crash when they get back home on Monday afternoon.  All of them will have a great time packed with memories, and a longing to do it all over again in June.

Here’s Susan from Yorkshire’s take on going to Southport:

This will be my forth year of going to Southport.  I love it so much that I haven’t missed one in that time, and still get excited before every one.  I love dancing, particularly to upbeat music, but what I really love is the social side.

Southport is a time to meet up with all those people I’ve made friends with in the past, but I love the fact that I’ll also meet a whole new bunch of people over the weekend.  I’m so looking forward to having a great time with all of them – dancing, chatting and of course joining in with all the laughter.

I know Susan is confident and outgoing, and I suspect she finds it relatively easy to make new friends, but Southport is a place that all people will find welcoming and friendly.  I remember going to my first Southport knowing very few people, but I made lasting friends that I enjoy meeting up with every time I go.

No 6: Marc Forster’s Boudoir Set

Marc along with his partner Rachel Pears have built quite a name for themselves as a teachers of Tango and Blues, and of course as the DJs of the late night Blues Lounge in The Cyclone Room.  Whenever I’ve dipped in to the Blues Lounge I’ve always sensed I was getting an education in Blues dance music, and this year I’ve promised myself that I’ll write a full review of one of their late night sets.

However their is another string to Marc’s bow, and this was brought home to me, when I asked Ceroc Heaven’s teacher and DJ Ashley Davis for his Must-do item:

I always make sure I find out when Marc Forster’s doing a Boudoir set.  I love his Blues playlists, but he’s also has a very wide knowledge of Chilled out music that’s particularly suited to SILC –  a style of dancing I’ve come to love.

As a chill zone DJ myself, I’m constantly adding to my collection, but every time I dance to Marc’s music I realise that I still have a lot to learn about what makes a great Chill Zone track, and he points me in the direction of some artists and tracks I’d never thought about.

Marc will be doing a Boudoir session at six on Saturday evening entitled SILC Lyrical and described in the programme as smooth, dreamy tunes.  I note that this is becoming a regular feature of Southport Weekenders and hopefully I’ll be able to plan my Saturday around it.

More great Boudoir sets

The Boudoir (Queen Vic) area has a full programme of DJ sets that include Must-dos for many people.  One of the most popular is Vince Silva’s Funk Hour, which follows on from Swingers Hour on Saturday afternoon, but there are a whole list of top Chill-out DJs throughout the weekend.

One of my own Must-dos is to dance outside at night to some chilled music – its a great way to cool down after a full on session in The Thunderball Room.  Hopefully the weather will be dry and we can all enjoy dancing under the stars.

No 7:  Tim Sant’s Motown & Soul Boudoir Set

In June there was a new addition to the Boudoir programme – a sixty minute Motown and Northern Soul slot on Sunday afternoon with DJ Tim Sant on the decks.  Being a self confessed Soul Boy I made sure I was there (see link to review below).

It proved to be one of the most exciting events of the whole weekend.  Here’s Paula a Northern Soul dancer from Sutton-in-Ashfield.  Once she caught her breathe, she gave me her verdict:

One word Paul – AWESOME!

It was indeed truly awesome.  I was particularly impressed how Tim built the vibe out on the floor towards the end of his set, and topped it off with the greatest Northern Soul anthem of all time – Frank Wilson’s Do I love you (Indeed I do).

I wrote in my review, that I hoped we would all get the chance to dance to these well loved tunes all over again, and I was pleased to see that once again Tim Sant has been given the same 2:30 Sunday afternoon slot.

For more info on other great Boudoir sets please read my Boudoir Music Taster Preview

As a packed Boudoir enjoys another great Motown track, DJ Tim sets up his euphoric finale

No 8:  Get the Fancy Dress sorted

There are some Must-dos that happen long before the event even kicks off, as people make their preparations for Southport.  Here’s Sue one of the franchise holders of Ceroc Heaven based in The East Midlands and South Yorkshire:

About six weeks before Southport, myself and the Ceroc Heaven Top Team decide on our fancy dress theme.  This time round its Green – not just green clothes but green themes too.

Our fancy dress themes have become increasingly popular as more and more of the Ceroc Heaven faithful come dressed up in fancy dress for the traditional Sunday night group photo call.

It’s quite amazing the efforts people go to and I’m always impressed with the creativity.  I’m sure that people will find a lot of interesting ways to represent Green – The Green Cross Code man, or may be Green Fingers.  Got forbid someone comes in Lycra as The Green Goddess.

Sunday night in the Thunderball Room has become Fancy Dress time for more and more groups of people.  You don’t have to be part of a big group to join in – one time a group of about six came as French onion sellers all in matching red and white T-Shirts.

At one weekender last year the Ceroc Heaven theme was Morris Men, complete with waving white scarves and bells on the legs.  Somehow they all managed to dance in Morris Men fashion to the rockin’ music.

Ceroc Heaven’s Mark O’Reilly even did his Thunderball Room DJ set dressed as a Morris Man!

No 9: Pace yourself and just watch the world go by

If you’re not careful you can do too much.  I remember my first ever visit to Southport and being completely danced out by Sunday afternoon.  It’s important that you pace yourself and one way of doing that is just to sit in the Thunderball Room and watch the world go by.

Here’s Tel, of my dance friends, talking about his ‘Watch the world go by’ routine:

In the late morning I walk across to the Java Cafe and can get a proper cup of coffee and a tasty muffin.  Then I stroll over to the main Thunderball, and sit on the tiered seating, and watch the the people taking part in the lessons.

Sometimes friends will come by and we all just chat.  It’s a great way to chill out and build up reserves for another session of late night dancing.

Hopefully the weather will be nice and we can also sit outside the Queen Vic, have a drink and catch up with friends.

I remember in September last year watching on as Tim Sant did his level 1 SILC Lesson on the Saturday afternoon.  Having danced until late the night before, I was grateful to chill out a little, though I have to say I was really impressed how many people were in that particular lesson.

Amazingly, while I was pacing myself, over two hundred people did Tim’s introduction to SILC lesson.

No 10: Get inspired

We are all on a journey where we want to improve our dancing, and many of us also want to try out new dance styles.  With a full programme of classes over the Saturday and Sunday there is every opportunity to advance your dancing.

But Southport offers more than lessons, and if I’m allowed to included my own Must-do, it would be this:

I love watching other dancers that are a whole lot better than myself.  I find it quite inspirational.  I say to myself, ‘One day I’d like to be as good as that’.  My Must-do is to get inspired to be a better dancer.

I’ve spent a lot of time watching people dance in the Blues Lounge and SILC Zones.  I’ve always struggled a bit with close hold blues and the slotted style of dancing.  In fact, because the standard is so good at Southport, it sometimes felt a little daunting just asking someone on to the Blues dance floor.  A good dose of inspiration always helped though.

Perhaps it was just seeing a couple of moves that I’ve thought I could learn, or may be seeing a move I know executed in a different more chilled way.  Looking back at my own dance journey, I can see where I picked up the odd move or a new bit of styling.  It was a slow process and it was watching other dancers at places like Southport that gave me the inspiration I needed.

The Cabaret is a packed with inspirational dancers

The Cabaret on Saturday night is a great place to get inspired.  My favourite part is where the teachers showcase their skills.  A lot of it is way beyond me, but there’s always something that prompts me to think, ‘I could that do one day, if I keep improving.’

Here’s a video from YouTube that shows the teachers performing in the Cabaret from a previous Southport.  It is full of dancing that has something to inspire anyone who wants to keep improving their dancing.  But don’t forget that there is just as much inspiration to be found by just watching people like yourself on the dance floor.

A flavour of a wonderful dance weekender

I was given so many suggestions for Must-do items, but sadly wanted to keep the list to ten.  I hope that my selection gives a flavour of just what’s in store at next week’s Southport Weekender, and is particularly helpful to any First-Timers.  The main programme is now available on line (see link below) and so everyone can start to plan their own Must-do list.

A Must-pack List

This list comes courtesy of Sue and Rachel, two veterans of visits to Southport when the weather can be particularly cold and the chalets heating system proves somewhat inadequate.

No 1: The Electric Blanket and Duvet

I’ve always taken my own duvet and bed linen but had never thought about Rachel’s suggestion of an electric blanket.  Realising what the British weather can throw at us at the beginning of Summer, it makes sense.

No 2: A Halogen Heater

The chalets do have radiators, but they are a bit hit and miss.  Sue always takes a small halogen heater that easily fits in the car.

No 3: A Bath Mat or old Towel

This is something I wish I’d remembered every time.  You’ll need to bring your own towels, but Rachel suggests bringing an old one to act as a bath mat for when you step out of the shower.

In February, because Sue had mentioned the bath mat, I brought one along for the fist time.  What a difference it made to shower time.  Good tip Sue.

No 4: Snuggly Warm Boots

Rachel always takes a pair of warm boots to the dance hall for when she’s walking back to the chalet in the early hours.

No 5: Exercise Clothes

Remember there are lots of non-dancing activities you can pick from, like Zumba, so remember to pack clothes for these.  Rachel is a big fan of the yoga classes that are provided, so again she packs suitable clothing.

No 6: Ibuprofen Gel

Long sessions of dancing can lead to sore feet.  It’s been suggested that you smother your feet in Ibuprofen gel as a way of pre-empting the discomfort of sore feet.

No 7: Large Mugs

I forget every time that the chalets have very small cups for hot drinks.  Hopefully this time I’ll take Rachel’s advice and remember to pack a large mug.

In February I remembered.  I felt quite pleased with myself when I saw just how small the cups provided were.

No 8: Home prepared Food

There is very little in the way of food on offer, and the on-site supermarket has only a very limited choice of basic items.  Myself and my dance gang friends get together before hand and decide who is bringing what, and we always prepare some tasty nutritious home made food that we can simply warm up in the oven.

No 9:  Black out curtains

Most of us will end up sleeping during day light hours.  Rachel suggests bringing some form of blackout curtains to help keep the light out, as the chalet curtains are rather thin and may even be short. Apparently you can buy babies Stick up Blinds that work successfully.

Postscript: Having read this item Tony Riccardi sent me this photo of the curtains at his chalet with the caption ‘Only at Pontins’.

No 10: Christmas Fairy Lights

This final tip came from Davina and made me smile!

Take fairy lights to string in your window so you can recognise your chalet at 4 in the morning – as they all look alike!

One of the joys of Southport is being able to stay out dancing as late as you like, but there is then the trudge back to the chalet, to try and get a few hours of sleep before all the action starts again.  It’s not just that all the chalets look the same, but all the chalet blocks look equally identical too, and the numbering on them is not always sequential either.

Sadly, I’ve been known to waste valuable sleep time trying to find the correct chalet block.  Now where did I put the Christmas lights.

I have to say that in February one of the ladies from Nottingham followed Davina’s advice and found the fairy lights in her window a god-send. 

Will the car be big enough?

I do wonder sometimes how we fit all the stuff in to the car, and now the list of things to take is a little longer.  Sadly I still can’t find the Christmas lights, but I will be taking a bath mat and some large man-mugs.  Here’s to a great Southport, and to some great dancing and socialising.

One last Tip . . .

Jo got in touch and asked me to add one other tip.  There are very few sockets in the chalets.  You can’t boil the kettle and use the microwave at the same time, so Jo tells me she always takes a 4 socket extension lead.

Postscript:  Helen-Marie got in touch to thank Jo for this tip.  Like all the ladies Helen-Marie needs to use a hairdryer.  I suspect some of the men might do to.  Now you’ll be able to use the hair dryer while you’re charging your phone, toothbrush and electric razor.  Sorted!

. . . and another

Pauline and Alison also got in touch regarding the cleanliness of the chalets and suggested that sanitizer wipes, and bleach might also be worth taking.

The Programme for Southport Scorch June 2018

Other related articles:

25 Things we love about Southport

The First-timers view of Southport

Tony Riccardi Thunderball Room Set 

Nicola Di Folco’s SILC Zone  Set 

Tim Sant’s Motown & Soul Set

Get Ready for Swingers Hour Lesson